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Volume 6, No. 3WINTER 2003

‘Imagine the joy’ of dreams realized

Zuhria, 52, of Zbouba, West Bank, has received training in marketable skills through IOCC. Photo: Nora Kort-IOCC

Since 2002, IOCC has trained more than 1,000 Palestinian women in bee-keeping and traditional embroidery skills. These marketable skills help the women earn critically needed income for their families at a time of rampant unemployment in the West Bank. The job creation project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Here is one of the women's stories, as told to Jerusalem head-of-office Nora Kort.

Zbouba, West Bank (IOCC) — “My children and husband are proud of me, and I feel important,” said Zuhria, a mother of eight who lives in the tiny West Bank village of Zbouba. The town is known for its old trees and beautiful hills, which the older people trace back to Roman and Byzantine times.

“I am 52 years old and originally from Jordan, where my family still lives. I was married at the age of 14 after completing eighth grade and came to Zbouba to take care of my husband’s extended family. Life in Zbouba was extremely difficult then. We did not have even running water at home.

“My husband is a laborer. He used to work in Israel, but in the past five years, prior to the current intifada (“uprising”), he has been without a job. We have eight children: three girls and five boys. The oldest is a married man of 23 years, and the youngest is 5 years old.

“I always dreamed about education and becoming something important in life, but neither circumstances nor traditions allowed it. A married woman’s place is at home no matter how ambitious she may be. My husband is open-minded, but society is much stronger than him. I had to live with that.

“My children were my only joy, and I committed myself to helping them complete their studies. My 18-year-old daughter, Afnan, didn’t pass her ‘Tawjihi’ [high school diploma] examination this year, but she is going to take it again. Education is the best investment and security against ‘black days.’

“Since the last three years of the intifada, almost all the men lost their jobs and sources of income. They had to spend their savings, and we were no better off. My husband is a member of the Village Council, and he invests all his time helping the community of Zbouba.

“When IOCC first came to our village, the project officer informed us that IOCC trains people and creates jobs for them. I wanted a job so badly for the sake of my family. IOCC trained Zbouba women in health education and computers. They gave us a library with 3,000 books and 10 computers and fixed two rooms for the women to meet and train in. Those were the first projects we ever had in the village.

“I took health education and first aid courses and my daughter-in-law took a computer course. I was one of almost 40 women in the class and loved the subjects so much, since I was able to use these skills at home.

“When IOCC started its job creation program, I asked to join all the classes. I took embroidery and agriculture training. I have already passed the skill of embroidery to my own daughters and started producing things for home and for sale. Now I also have two bee cells which produce honey.

“You can’t imagine the joy that I and the family had with the first production of the natural honey. We were happy with the honey, ate some, and sold the rest. For the first time in my life I get money in return for things I produce, and the feeling is gratifying.

“I vowed to seek more knowledge and recognition. I am sure that with my new qualifications and skills, I’ll find a permanent job which will improve my family’s economic status. I am a much happier woman.”

A Palestinian woman from Beita, West Bank, participates in an IOCC-led workshop on quilt-making. Through this and other IOCC training projects, women are learning marketable skills that they can use to earn critically needed income for their families. Photo: Paul Jeffrey-ACT

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